People Can Die From Exposure

[The first in a pair–perhaps later a series?–of articles about work, ownership and compensation online. What I have to say is nothing new, but hopefully can add to the growing chorus of voices about it.]

Recently Wil Wheaton went off a little bit about being paid for your work in this strange new era of the internet where websites expect to use your content for free.

Huffington Post has a lot of views, and reaches a pretty big audience, and that post is something I’d love to share with more people, so I told the editor that I was intrigued, and asked what they pay contributors.

Well, it turns out that, “Unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”

I’ve seen a lot of these stories in the past, more than I could ever link to, but they all say the same thing: as tempting as it is to be approached by someone, often a large brand or company, and be told that your work will be seen by lots of people vis-a-vis exposure… Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

Working for Exposure, Cyanide and Happiness by Rob DenBleyker

I’m just returning to blogging on a more full-time basis, and in the hopes that it would encourage me to stay on track, I recently accepted just such an offer to document and write up a recipe. It was fun and got me back in the kitchen, but at the end of the day, I was the one shelling out money and spending my time to research recipes, buy ingredients and bake a treat all to give someone else a free plug. That kind of thing happens all the time, and is considered standard practice nowadays1.

I have no illusions that my site is super-popular. I’m not a mommy blogger, I’m not famous, I can barely count my daily hits in the hundreds, let alone thousands. And I don’t think anyone who started a blog when I did2 expected that these would one day become potential revenue streams in the way they have. However, I’ve still gotten paid for my work before, words and especially photos, so while it feels weird to reply back, “What do you pay?” Maybe instead, I should get used to doing it.

The Catch-22 of this is, that there are tons of other bloggers/photographers/etc. they could approach that might be happy to do it for free, so while my standing my ground might result in a refusal, isn’t it more worth it to myself to respect my own time and talent?

There are many brands that I will gladly talk, tweet, write and post about for free because I genuinely enjoy them, but if your company/entity is basically advertising, even non-traditionally, you should both have a budget for that and be willing to use it. Especially since it is something that will likely gain you revenue, while all it might get me is a link and a byline. :mrgreen:

1 I just reached out to them asking if a link to my post actually made it to any of their social media posts or sites. Still waiting on a response.

2 It’s nigh on 15 years now. Ye gods.

[Featured image from]

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